Hurricane Lee forecast to ‘rapidly intensify’ into major Category 4 storm

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Forecasters predict that Hurricane Lee, currently swirling in the Atlantic, will intensify into a major hurricane on Thursday and will eventually become a Category 4 storm.

Lee strengthened from a tropical storm into a Category 1 hurricane Wednesday.

Hurricane Lee on Thursday.NOAA

The National Hurricane Center warned that the storm system on Thursday was going to “rapidly intensify” — meaning maximum winds would surge 35 mph in 24 hours or less. Originally forecast to become an “extremely dangerous major hurricane” by early Friday, the weather service said in an 11 a.m. advisory that it will become a major hurricane later Thursday.

A “major hurricane” is a storm of Category 3 or greater on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.

Lee was churning about 870 miles east of the northern Leeward Islands with maximum sustained winds of 105 mph as of 11 a.m. ET on Thursday, the National Weather Service said. 

Lee’s forecast to eventually become a very powerful Category 4 hurricane with winds potentially as high as 155 mph, fueled by warm ocean water.

While there’s no direct threat of landfall so far, the weather service warned that the storm will create large swells likely to reach the Lesser Antilles on Friday, and the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico this weekend.

“These swells are likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions,” the weather service said.

Lee is currently moving west-northwest at 15 mph and will continue on this track with a gradual slowdown in forward speed.

The storm’s long-term track is still uncertain, but most tropical models curve the hurricane to the north, possibly tracking close to Bermuda or between Bermuda and the U.S. East Coast next week.

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